Berklee ! Berklee College of Music ! This Great Institution changed my life.
1984 was the year I first heard about Berklee, I was 20 years old and I was entering the Jazz world coming from Blues, Boogie Woogie and Funk music.
My early days of piano were at the Conservatoire of Chateauroux, France. In early 1984, I had a band and we were having our first gigs at a night club in Libreville, Gabon, when a young lady from France came to us and told me that she wanted to come on stage to do a jazz standard. I looked at her very astonished and told her politely that we didn’t have that in our répertoire.
So she handed me a Real Book (unauthorized) but before she could show me the tune she wanted us to play, I stopped her and said to her : « what’s your name? she answered Vivian » and I said « Vivian ! Let’s meet properly after the set ». The next day she came at her rehearsal and that’s when she told me that she went to Berklee, « a great jazz school » and she even gave the big booklet with the application inside about Berklee that she was carrying with her. On December, 26th 1986 after 2 years in a Medecine School I was taking off to New-York City, on January 1st 1987, I arrived in Boston and on the Fall 1988 I joined Berklee for four wonderful years being the third guy from Africa and the first Gabonese ever to be admitted in this wonderful institution and the rest is History for me.
30 years later, The Berklee College of Music is the reason of the birth of the African Music Institute. I had never dreamed that something like that would happen in my country Gabon.
Deep thanks to Mister Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic who is making the dreams of many African Musicians come true. And I am proud to be a little part of it because I am the Man and the Musician I am because of Berklee.
Frédéric Gassita Composer and Jazz Pianist